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How The Kremlin Is Using Sex To Sell Putin

A screen grab from a raunchy "Putin's Army" video
"I'm scared," the girl says, "I want my choice to be based on love." The doctor, his glasses perched on his nose, looks down at her reclined on a leather chair. "I understand you, it's always scary the first time." The doctor then points to a copy of "Time" magazine with Putin on the cover and says, "Trust is love." Sweeping panpipes kick in, reminiscent of the "Titanic" theme tune, and the girl happily trots off to the polling station.

The campaign ad from the youth group Nashi is the latest in a series of pro-Kremlin campaign videos that use sex to sell Putin's candidacy ahead of the March 4 election.

Last year, Putin's Army of scantily clad women ripped off their clothes and lovingly unboxed Apple products. One time, the girls got together to make a chocolate cake for Putin. Or, with aesthetics borrowed from the car-washing scene in "Cool Hand Luke," Putin's girls strip off and get soapy.

The ads just get more and more bizarre. Before shaking hands with Putin, one Russian man decided that he would somehow transfer good vibes by fondling the breasts of 1,000 girls on the street. Many accepted the offer, many didn't.

And in what might be a metaphor for the end of innocence, in this video a teddy bear is ripped up and then -- with pornographic predictability -- all the ladies start catfighting and ripping off each other's clothes.

But the one that really takes the cake is the "Girls for Putin" music video, where at one point the singer pines for Putin while nursing a bottle of Jack Daniels. For some reason she also wants to be Putin's dog, Connie, so she paints her face (as a dog). Then she drinks more whisky, plays air guitar with a baseball bat, strips, and spits on a smashed pumpkin.

Putin's campaign managers are obviously hoping for a little of the George Clooney effect: the men want to be him; the women want to be with him. The campaigns are certainly slick and well-produced and closely ape the visual styles of both late-night glamour TV and pornography. Not only are they targeting the young, but specifically young urban professionals (all those power suits and gleaming gadgets).

Those young urban professionals -- riding high on the oil boom -- once formed the bedrock of Putin's support. But now much of that emboldened, entitled middle class has started to want more in terms of political rights. It's no accident that this young, professional class is now a key component of Russia's opposition, which has taken to the streets in recent months.

Russia's younger generation is also apathetic. In the 2007 parliamentary elections, one poll found that only one-fifth of 18-24 year olds would vote. The final turnout in 2007 was 64 percent. In this ad, a young man and woman canoodle in a polling booth. The message here isn't just that voting for United Russia is sexy, but voting is sexy, period.

Such ads might also be partially aimed at an international audience rather than average Russians -- tailor-made material for the likes of RT that show a lively, thriving RuNet, where opposition voices coexist with the regime's girl fans.

It all makes Obama Girl look rather tame.